She poured and I drank. She held her glass with both hands, like a child, and closed her eyes when she took her first mouthful.
‘Oof,’ she said. ‘That’s good.’
‘That was the drink of a person who has just walked out of the desert,’ I said.
‘Feels like it. Had a tough couple of days.’
‘I know how that feels.’
‘So I watch football to unwind.’
‘Really?’ I said. ‘It doesn’t relax me. I end up swearing at the set.’
She took another drink, leaned back in her seat. On the screen, ex-players in panic-inducingly expensive suits and fuck-me haircuts bantered around a pitch-side table.
‘That’s because you’re partisan. You’re invested.’
She shook her head. ‘Itinerant upbringing. Didn’t stay in one place for long enough to swear allegiance. I’m as neutral as it gets. I just like to watch. The patterns. The shapes. The flow.’
‘So what’s on tonight?’ Screens upon screens. Giant screens. Tiny corner screens. Personal screens on tables. So many screens you’d be hard pressed not to catch the match at all, even if you were a dwarf with cataracts. In a different bar.
‘Champions League semi-final, first leg.’
‘No idea.’ She looked at my clothes. ‘Red versus blue. France versus England. Expansive versus cautious.’
‘You could be describing us.’
‘Experience versus youth.’
‘Very good,’ I said. ‘Very funny.’
On the screens overpaid, oily-haired prongs stood in the tunnel. And that was just the match officials. Smoke from a flare turned the stands into a ghost-red battle zone. The bar management ramped up the volume and the Champions League theme shook our glasses.
I’d gone through my beer as if it were water. I realised I was nervous. She poured me another glass. ‘I’ve been looking into a death. Someone was murdered a couple of days ago. In Enfield. He knew my daughter.’
‘I don’t know what I can do to help.’
‘Possibly nothing. It doesn’t matter. But I was wondering if there was someone at the museum who could look at some documents for me.’
‘You mean me?’
‘Of course I do. I’m rubbish at being direct.’
‘What sort of documents?’
I pulled the pages from my jacket and handed them over.
She took another deep drink and studied them.
‘My uncle would have been all over this,’ she said.
‘He was involved in the Zodiac killings back in the sixties and seventies.’
‘Yeah. He was one of the team who studied the notes Zodiac sent to the San Francisco Chronicle.’
‘And you got into palaeography because of him?’
‘Kind of. But I’m more involved with manuscript dating.’
‘You just haven’t met the right man yet.’
‘Very good,’ she said. ‘Very funny.’